At precisely 5:00 p.m. on June 6th, after 51 days on the road, two tired 30-year-olds, Tushar and Pooja Agarwal wheeled into Delhi, India after driving through 15 countries, 9 time zones and a lifetime of road experiences between the London, England and the thriving Indian capital city.
When the novice road adventurers shut down their British-registered, virtually stock 2005 Jeep Cherokee, they didn’t smash any world records or score a ‘Breaking News’ segment on CNN. The streets were not rife with cheering masses and there was not a ticker tape parade past India Gate. No one handed them a trophy for their efforts either.
But the affable Indian couple, born in India but educated and employed in England, had done what they said they would do by living up to their personal commitment. Even though their 7-week road trip into the unknown was not paved with corporate sponsorship and Tushar and Pooja have not become household names, they managed to pull off a motoring event many might dream of, few would consider but hardly anyone would attempt.
“All I can say is we couldn’t believe the car that we drove in London was with us in Delhi.” Pooja wrote. “It took us a while to realize that the Jeep, Tushar and I had arrived in Delhi in one piece.
When I started to follow Tushar and Pooja Agarwal’s epic road adventure through their website http://www.londondelhibyroad.com/, I was apprehensive about their safety but at the same time riveted to the updates on their website and curious about the outcome.
After all, there were many parallels to a road trip my partner Ken Langley and I strapped on at their age when we attempted to secure a spot in the 1980 Guinness Book of Records for the fastest circumnavigation of the world by car.
In reflection, who knows if that extravaganza was worth the diversion in my life and career path, but that road adventure has influenced everything I’ve done professionally for the past 30 years.
Like Ken and I, Tushar and Pooja quit secure jobs, spent a year or so planning then let their enthusiasm fuel a plan to take an overland road trip through Europe, the former Soviet Union, China and Nepal take over their life. When, in the midst of a global economic meltdown, the IT specialist and insurance broker were unable to secure corporate sponsorship, they bought a used Jeep Cherokee, did plenty of budget revisions then hit the road from London, England on April 17th.
First they aligned themselves with Friendicoes SECA ( http://www.friendicoes.org/), a very worthwhile Indian animal charity operating in the city of Delhi. By the time their drive was over, they had raised $6,000 for the registered non-profit operation that has been feeding, medicating and providing care for up to 1,000 animals at any given time since 1979. The voyage, which took in Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (and the other ‘Stans’), China, Tibet and Nepal was an exercise in determination, negotiation, good planning and obviously a healthy serving of good luck.
“The scariest part was definitely the night in Aksai Chin region of Tibet where Pooja fell ill,” Tushar wrote from Delhi before shipping the Cherokee back to London. “We were at an altitude of 5,200 metres and at midnight Pooja complained of short breath. We motored through the night in one of the remotest and the highest parts of Tibet with no one in sight and an oxygen mask onPooja’s mouth.”
Nepal, for Tushar and Pooja, was their entry back into civilization. After the isolation of Tibet, the gravel tracks, extreme altitudes, unhygienic conditions and altitude sickness, the remote land-locked country was a welcome change.
In Nepal, they were back on the left side of the road, which took a bit of getting used to as 90% of the journey had been on the right side of the road.
After a day’s rest in Kathmandu, the drive to the Indian border was an emotional one.
“From a distance, we saw the Indian flag and my heart skipped a beat,” Tushar recalled. “I drove faster and as we reached the barrier, I stopped the car and admired the uniforms of the Indian border guards. My heart was beating faster. I was getting emotional looking at India behind that barrier facing a huge sign that said, “Welcome to India”.
With a couple of weeks rest in Delhi under their belts, the intrepid duo are already looking ahead though. They have plans to write a book on their experience and have another dream, to drive around all the seven continents of the world.
No doubt, Tushar and Pooja AgarwaI have caught the road trip bug big time. And I can’t help but wonder, if after 30 years, like myself, they will still be juggling a life of the road, cars, travel and the folks out there on the endless highway.